Gov: Road to Independence


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English colonists brought their ideas about government to the American colonies. When the first colonists arrived in North America, the idea of limited government was not unheard of. The colonists drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact, which stood as an example of colonial plans for self-government. Each of the thirteen colonies wrote a constitution, elected representatives to a legislature, and separated the powers of the executive and legislative branches. The colonists grew accustomed to governing themselves. After the British won the costly French and Indian War, King George III levied taxes on goods purchased in the colonies. The colonists protested. In retaliation, Parliament harshly reduced the rights of colonists. Colonial leaders began to work together to take political action against British oppression. The first battle of the Revolutionary War occurred in 1775, and delegates at the Second Continental Congress assumed the powers of the central government. On July 4, 1776, the colonies broke from British rule after signing the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence announced to the world the decision of the thirteen American colonies to separate themselves from Great Britain. Its true revolutionary significance is the declaration of a basis of political legitimacy in the sovereignty of the people. The Declaration has three parts: the Preamble, a list of charges against King George III, and a conclusion. The Preamble summarizes the fundamental principles of American self-government. The list of charges against the king presents examples of the violation of those principles. The conclusion calls for duty, action, and sacrifice.

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